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Best Aviation Photography Lens?  
User currently offlineBriceJohnson From Canada, joined Mar 2012, 110 posts, RR: 0
Posted (10 months 4 weeks 13 hours ago) and read 6006 times:

Hello All!

I am using a Nikon D3100, paired with a Nikon 70-300mm lens. I am starting a new post because I would appreciate some opinions on what is the best aviation photography lens.

Also, here are some recent photos taken with my 70-300mm. I am struggling with getting the entire aircraft in focus. Any suggestions?









Thanks for your time and help, it is appreciated!

Calvin


Calvin | image120
30 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineoly720man From United Kingdom, joined May 2004, 6682 posts, RR: 11
Reply 1, posted (10 months 4 weeks 13 hours ago) and read 6002 times:

What exposure settings are you using and what focal lengths?

Don't forget the inverse rule that shutter speed is 1/focal length, and with the 3100 there's a 1.6x crop factor so shutter speed is 1/(focal length x 1.6), so at 300mm you're looking at 1/500s. If the lens has image stabilisation (or Nikon's equivalent) this won't necessarily hold true.

For aircraft you need an aperture of around f8 so there's enough depth of field to get the whole aircraft in focus.

Check the focus point. On the Westjet it looks like the winglet is in focus rather than the fuselage, unless it's my eyes.

Beware motion blur when panning, especially if the shutter speed isn't fast enough. If you're not following the aircraft exactly you will get some blurring during the exposure.

That lens should be more than capable of producing sharp images.



wheat and dairy can screw up your brain
User currently offlinevikkyvik From United States of America, joined Jul 2003, 9760 posts, RR: 27
Reply 2, posted (10 months 4 weeks 12 hours ago) and read 5972 times:
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Quoting oly720man (Reply 1):
For aircraft you need an aperture of around f8 so there's enough depth of field to get the whole aircraft in focus.

That's dependent on focal length and distance from subject (and sensor size). If you're shooting between 70 and 300mm, and shooting a whole aircraft (so your subject is probably 500-1500 feet away), you won't have much problem with DOF, even at F4. I shoot aircraft that are as close as 200 feet at F4 between 70 and 300mm all the time (on a 1.6 crop sensor).

Quoting oly720man (Reply 1):
If you're not following the aircraft exactly you will get some blurring during the exposure.

Important to note that even if you are following the aircraft exactly, as shutter speed slows down you may get some blur at the extremes of the aircraft, as the nose and tail won't be moving at the same rate in your field of view.



"Two and a Half Men" was filmed in front of a live ostrich.
User currently offlineafterburner From Indonesia, joined Jun 2005, 1209 posts, RR: 1
Reply 3, posted (10 months 4 weeks 9 hours ago) and read 5944 times:

Quoting oly720man (Reply 1):
with the 3100 there's a 1.6x crop factor

In Nikon, Sony, and Pentax the crop factor is 1.5x.  


User currently offlinelen90 From United States of America, joined Jul 2006, 502 posts, RR: 0
Reply 4, posted (10 months 3 weeks 6 days 18 hours ago) and read 5846 times:

If you were a Canon user I would say the 70-200 L series. I have used the 70-200 f4L and now a 70-200 f4L IS. Fantastic lens for color and sharpness.

For your pictures, can you post the focal lengths and apertures used along with ISOs.



Len90
User currently offlineoly720man From United Kingdom, joined May 2004, 6682 posts, RR: 11
Reply 5, posted (10 months 3 weeks 6 days 17 hours ago) and read 5842 times:

Quoting vikkyvik (Reply 2):
That's dependent on focal length and distance from subject

Yes, true. Half my brain is still on holiday.

Quoting afterburner (Reply 3):
In Nikon, Sony, and Pentax the crop factor is 1.5x.

You live and learn.



wheat and dairy can screw up your brain
User currently offlineBriceJohnson From Canada, joined Mar 2012, 110 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted (10 months 3 weeks 6 days 15 hours ago) and read 5819 times:

Quoting oly720man (Reply 1):
What exposure settings are you using and what focal lengths?
Quoting len90 (Reply 4):
For your pictures, can you post the focal lengths and apertures used along with ISOs.

For the UPS 757 I was using f 5.6 at a 1/200. Focal length was at 190mm, and ISO was at 160



For the Air Canada 767 I was using f 8 at a 1/2000, ISO 400, and focal length was set to 145mm.



For the WestJet 737: I was using f 8 at 1/800 at ISO 100. Focal length was 195mm



Finally, for the United 737: I was using f8, ISO 400, 1/2000, and focal length was set to 145mm.



What was I doing wrong considering my photos, and the above specs? Does anyone have suggestions?

Thanks!

Calvin  



Calvin | image120
User currently offlinelen90 From United States of America, joined Jul 2006, 502 posts, RR: 0
Reply 7, posted (10 months 3 weeks 6 days 14 hours ago) and read 5814 times:

What focus mode were you using. Aviation photography is best done using AF Servo. Think it is the same name on Nikon as Canon for that. Basically you want the camera to be constantly focusing and not just point focusing.


Len90
User currently offlineBriceJohnson From Canada, joined Mar 2012, 110 posts, RR: 0
Reply 8, posted (10 months 3 weeks 6 days 14 hours ago) and read 5813 times:

Quoting len90 (Reply 7):
What focus mode were you using. Aviation photography is best done using AF Servo. Think it is the same name on Nikon as Canon for that. Basically you want the camera to be constantly focusing and not just point focusing.

I was using single shot focus.



Calvin | image120
User currently offlinedazbo5 From United Kingdom, joined Mar 2005, 2877 posts, RR: 2
Reply 9, posted (10 months 3 weeks 6 days 14 hours ago) and read 5809 times:

Quoting len90 (Reply 7):
Basically you want the camera to be constantly focusing and not just point focusing.

It depends on how you are using your camera and what technique you are employing. I don't use AF servo personally and use one shot as I prefer to take single shots then recompose / focus rather than track / take a burst or shots.

Darren



Equipment: 2x Canon EOS 50D; Sigma 10-20 EX DC HSM, 50-500 EX APO DG, Canon 24-105 f/4 L, Speedlite 430EX
User currently offlinevikkyvik From United States of America, joined Jul 2003, 9760 posts, RR: 27
Reply 10, posted (10 months 3 weeks 6 days 14 hours ago) and read 5807 times:
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Quoting dazbo5 (Reply 9):
I don't use AF servo personally and use one shot as I prefer to take single shots then recompose / focus rather than track / take a burst or shots.

Same here.

Occasionally I'll switch to AF Servo, just to try it out. Haven't found any noticeable difference. But like Darren, I don't fire off bursts anyway. If it means I occasionally miss a shot/airplane, then oh well, there's always the next spotting session.  



"Two and a Half Men" was filmed in front of a live ostrich.
User currently offlineBriceJohnson From Canada, joined Mar 2012, 110 posts, RR: 0
Reply 11, posted (10 months 3 weeks 6 days 10 hours ago) and read 5764 times:

How can I improve with my photos above? What am I doing wrong?

Thanks,

Calvin



Calvin | image120
User currently offlinevikkyvik From United States of America, joined Jul 2003, 9760 posts, RR: 27
Reply 12, posted (10 months 3 weeks 6 days 10 hours ago) and read 5760 times:
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Quoting BriceJohnson (Reply 11):
How can I improve with my photos above? What am I doing wrong?

Might help if you post a couple full-size, unedited photos.



"Two and a Half Men" was filmed in front of a live ostrich.
User currently offlinelen90 From United States of America, joined Jul 2006, 502 posts, RR: 0
Reply 13, posted (10 months 3 weeks 6 days 8 hours ago) and read 5745 times:

For the UPS I personally think it has to do with you being at 190mm (like 285mm on a 35mm) and only shooting at 1/200 or possibly a really bad focus.

As Vik said, full size unedited pictures will help a lot.

Quoting vikkyvik (Reply 10):
Occasionally I'll switch to AF Servo, just to try it out. Haven't found any noticeable difference. But like Darren, I don't fire off bursts anyway. If it means I occasionally miss a shot/airplane, then oh well, there's always the next spotting session.

Pretty much my findings. I just like Servo and burst shooting so I can get multiple pictures and have a variety to choose from.



Len90
User currently offlineluxornv From United States of America, joined Aug 2013, 1 posts, RR: 0
Reply 14, posted (10 months 3 weeks 6 days 5 hours ago) and read 5729 times:

Hello, I've been using a Canon T3i with a 70-200mm f/2.8L II USM for my last few outings. I work about 3 miles from ORD and I take pictures during my lunch break. Below are a few of the shots I've taken. I haven't taken the time to upload them to a proper photo host, and these are linked from my Facebook. As a result, the compression is horrible on these. I've been shooting at ISO100, 1/800 shutter, and typically f/8-11. It was a little cloudy today, so I had the aperture up to 3.5 on a few shots.



User currently offlineJeffinMass From United States of America, joined Dec 2011, 27 posts, RR: 0
Reply 15, posted (10 months 3 weeks 5 days 19 hours ago) and read 5687 times:

My opinion is this. The Nikon 70-300 is a good lens. If you want a GREAT lens then get the 80-400 ES. The glass is a far better quality, hence the cost which is about $1400USD. Sometimes a 18mm lens works too or a 28-105mm. It all depends upon what and how you are shooting. The images here are very nice. Remember it's the photographer who takes the pictures not the camera. The camera helps you take them.  

User currently offlineBriceJohnson From Canada, joined Mar 2012, 110 posts, RR: 0
Reply 16, posted (10 months 3 weeks 5 days 15 hours ago) and read 5658 times:

Who thinks that the Nikon 18-300mm or 28-300mm is better than the 70-300mm? Maybe I should go with that?


Calvin | image120
User currently offlinealevik From Canada, joined Mar 2009, 944 posts, RR: 8
Reply 17, posted (10 months 3 weeks 5 days 11 hours ago) and read 5636 times:
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Calvin;

The gear you have now should be more than adequate to get good images in the conditions you have been shooting in (based on your examples).

I have the 28-300 and use it for aviation photography as well as general travel photography. It is a great lens and easy to carry around. I also use both the new and old versions of the 80-400 - a much larger and heavier lens but useful when you need that extra reach. I have never used the 70-300 but I know others who have and upload successfully here.

From your examples, it is hard to tell how much you have had to crop from the original to get full frame. The Westjet for example, with f 8 at 1/800 at ISO 100 and 195mm that should produce a very acceptable result. The shutter speed is high enough, the ISO is low, and 195mm is well in the sweet spot of the the lens. Did you have to crop the image a lot?

For the AC 767, f 8 at a 1/2000, ISO 400, and 145mm, I'm unsure why you needed ISO 400? ISO 100 would still give you a decently high shutter speed and introduce less grain.

Rather than think about changing lenses, I would focus on getting good results from the gear you have, which should be very possible, and then decide what lens will suit your needs.

Peter



Improvise, adapt, overcome.
User currently offlineBriceJohnson From Canada, joined Mar 2012, 110 posts, RR: 0
Reply 18, posted (10 months 3 weeks 5 days 9 hours ago) and read 5621 times:

Thanks for the response, and encouragement Peter. It is much appreciated!

I did have to crop each of the photos from original res of 4608px down to about 3000px.



Calvin | image120
User currently offlineviv From Ireland, joined May 2005, 3142 posts, RR: 29
Reply 19, posted (10 months 3 weeks 4 days 23 hours ago) and read 5573 times:

Generally speaking (there are exceptions) prime lenses will give better results than zoom lenses.


Nikon D700, Nikkor 80-400, Fuji X Pro 1, Fujinon 35 f/1.4, Fujinon 18 f/2
User currently onlineangad84 From India, joined Nov 2012, 737 posts, RR: 0
Reply 20, posted (10 months 3 weeks 3 days 20 hours ago) and read 5527 times:

Quoting BriceJohnson (Reply 18):
I did have to crop each of the photos from original res of 4608px down to about 3000px.

I used to frame wide and crop later, because it was easier than framing tight and risking cutting off parts of the plane. Then I realised I was just being lazy and worked on getting better at following the aircraft more accurately.

Perhaps you're being similarly conservative?

Cheers
Angad


User currently offlinegocaps16 From Japan, joined Jan 2000, 4338 posts, RR: 21
Reply 21, posted (10 months 3 weeks 2 days 9 hours ago) and read 5423 times:

Try shooting RAW instead of JPEG. That would alleviate the JPEG compression on your photos and tends to loose some quality while you edit. Editing plays a major factor on this website. Once you master the settings of your camera for sharpness, then it'll be editing. I'm a Nikon guy myself and I and many photographers will recommend you a higher budget, excellent quality glass as the 70-200 F2.8 VR. Price is $2600 USD new. For me, I tend to stay away from shooting on overcast days and practice shooting ILS approaches at my local airfield instead.

[Edited 2013-09-01 17:23:55]

User currently offlinemegatop412 From United States of America, joined Sep 2005, 309 posts, RR: 0
Reply 22, posted (10 months 3 weeks 1 day 13 hours ago) and read 5352 times:

My two main lenses for this type of work is the Nikkor 70-300mmVR and the Sigma 150-500mmOS. They complement each other nicely and yield excellent IQ.

While it is true the more expensive lenses are sharper, if you don't have the need for that kind of uber-sharpness, there's no need to invest in them. I also can't justify spending $2400 on a lens that only zooms to 200mm, to then have to spend even more money on teleconverters.


User currently offlinescbriml From United Kingdom, joined Jul 2003, 12361 posts, RR: 47
Reply 23, posted (10 months 3 weeks 1 day 11 hours ago) and read 5337 times:
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Quoting BriceJohnson (Reply 8):
I was using single shot focus.

I would suggest trying AF-C rather than AF-S, especially if you're tracking moving planes across the sky. I typically only use AF-C when shooting static planes.

For moving planes I usually depress the shutter half way so the camera focuses, then follow the plane keeping the shutter half depressed so the camera maintains focus while I take my shots.



Time flies like an arrow, but fruit flies like a banana!
User currently offlineBriceJohnson From Canada, joined Mar 2012, 110 posts, RR: 0
Reply 24, posted (10 months 1 week 5 days 11 hours ago) and read 4779 times:

Should I get a Sigma 150-500mm lens?

Is it possible that there is something wrong with my lens or camera, all things considered? (Fast enough exposure, aperture, etc.) The issue of the entire aircraft not being in complete focus is happening with every trip I make... please help!
Big version: Width: 1024 Height: 684 File size: 355kb


[Edited 2013-09-12 15:19:41]


Calvin | image120
User currently offlineyousaf465 From Pakistan, joined Feb 2006, 19 posts, RR: 0
Reply 25, posted (10 months 1 week 5 days 1 hour ago) and read 4748 times:

please post exif.

Focus seems to have been locked at the tail.



yousaf465
User currently offlineAsuspine From United States of America, joined Apr 2009, 64 posts, RR: 0
Reply 26, posted (10 months 1 week 4 days 12 hours ago) and read 4658 times:

Hi,

Seeing the UPS I think its a back focus problem. I use Nikon D7000 with AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED. I initially faced focusing issues. The problem was that lens and / or camera were not perfectly synchronized and thus had a back focus issue. I was able to resolve the issue as there is a Fine Tune option in D7000 but I guess the same is not available in D3100.

IMO you should first test your camera for back focus problems on static subjects. Please google 'back focus' and you would find several websites with detailed procedure. It would be better to upgrade to a camera with auto fine tune option instead of changing lenses.

For aviation photography I would recommend AF-C and I hope you shoot with a single point focus.

Regards

[Edited 2013-09-13 14:10:40]

[Edited 2013-09-13 14:24:46]


HFK
User currently offlinegunone From United States of America, joined Apr 2013, 17 posts, RR: 0
Reply 27, posted (10 months 1 week 3 days 3 hours ago) and read 4510 times:
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You are exactly where I was two years ago. Do not be discouraged, you will be facing a great challenge. Follow my advice implicitly and you will never look back. I used the Nikon 70-300 for one and a half years till the inner lenses were full of dust and the lens is unserviceable. Then you can replace it with a 70-200 2.8 and a 1.7 teleconverter. The tele is for shooting private aircraft. The images will be outstanding, where you are now the lens will require skills you have yet to develop. You have great learning glass, master it. The camera is better than mine was, a Nikon D60. Here is you first lesson...

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Use centre spot focusing and evaluative center spot metering around 6mm. You want the subject exposed correctly.
Check your shutter speeds. Use at least the reciprocal of the focal length, eg if you're shooting at 100mm, you need at least 1/100th or at 200mm, at least 1/200th. This assumes a good panning technique, ideally you'd want say 1/400th to freeze the action then reduce the shutter speed as your technique improves or you want to creation some motion blur in the background. I never depend on VR to stabilize my image, at 1/800 of a second your shutter is ahead of Vibration Reduction.
Shut off all camera attributes: D-Lighting, Compensation, Sharpness, ETC. These attributes slow down focusing speed and add unwanted artifacts and noise to your photos.
You need to know your camera, get a good book or two, the Internet also has is also a great source of information, constantly check for good exposure around F/8. As the sun transitions through the day slight adjustments to the ISO will be necessary. Learn the Golden Triangle and how to best use it for aviation photography. Slow the shutter down for propeller aircraft nead to lower the ISO setting to 100.
Always be looking for good backgrounds to capture. Example the moon. You will need to increase the F/Stop to F16 in order for the added element to be crisp and in focus.
Develop a good focusing technique. Mine is to zoom in on the object, press the shutter button half way, when the GREEN light is steady in the lower left of the camera you have acquired focus, now Zoom out and compose your shot. I have framing turned on to keep the image centered.
Photography is about practice and experience, it's not something you'll master straight away but use the above as a starting point and you'll not go far wrong.
Noise in the blue channel is not uncommon in winter light, but keeping the ISO as low as possible will prevent anything too serious. When processing photos, never sharpen the sky as there's nothing to sharpen and it'll emphasis any noise.
During post-processing lasso the aircraft and only sharpen the aircraft.
Lastly is practice and keep reading, learn from your bad images. It took me 30,000 shots to get it right, this means 85% of the images are something worth sharing.

Alan


User currently offlineBriceJohnson From Canada, joined Mar 2012, 110 posts, RR: 0
Reply 28, posted (10 months 1 week 6 hours ago) and read 4227 times:

Would getting a Sigma 150-500mm resolve my issue?


Calvin | image120
User currently offlinegunone From United States of America, joined Apr 2013, 17 posts, RR: 0
Reply 29, posted (9 months 3 weeks 5 days 2 hours ago) and read 3583 times:
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Hi, this is Alan again...

I tried a Sigma 150 - 500mm lens on a D7000, it was not pretty. The camera seldom autofocused accurately and the camera could not meter the light accurately. I tried the lens on my D60 and it worked much better. It also worked well on the D90 and D300. It might have to do with the F/6.4 which is reached just over 300mm. A lot of lens to work with for a short focal length. Remember most cameras do not work correctly above F/5.6. To date only the D600 and D7100 will allow this. I still have mine, never use it, through away too many shots that should have been keepers.

Also it sounds like you are not getting close enough to your images, try finding a better spotting location, the more focal length, the more dirt, pollen, pollution, etc. will be amplified between you and the target. Photography is a thinking man's hobby and requires constant effort, educate, practice and evaluate.

Good Luck

Alan


User currently offlineBriceJohnson From Canada, joined Mar 2012, 110 posts, RR: 0
Reply 30, posted (9 months 3 weeks 3 days 9 hours ago) and read 3427 times:

Thanks for the comments  

I think that there is something wrong with my camera or lens. I am getting it checked out.

Cheers,

Calvin



Calvin | image120
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